Do you have to take the SAT?

Every year thousands of juniors and seniors across the country spend countless hours studying and preparing to take the SAT. On top of their own personal study sessions, many of these students also take SAT prep courses or work with private SAT tutors to make sure they are well-equipped to tackle everything the test throws at them on test day.

Considering the immense amount of time it takes to prepare for the test, the stress that comes from worrying about your score, and the fact that the SAT can last for as long as four hours (depending on whether or not you take the essay), you might be wondering if it is absolutely necessary to take.

Depending on the state where you live, the simple answer is no. You do not need to take the SAT. 

Aside from around 25 states which require the SAT or a few states, like Indiana, which are replacing their graduation qualifying exams with the SAT in coming years, many places do not require that students take the SAT in order to graduate from high school. Furthermore, an increasing number of colleges and universities will be permanently test-optional starting in 2021 or 2022. 

With these changes and a lack of stringent requirements, it might seem like passing on the SAT won’t do any harm, right?


Not quite.

Although the SAT is not mandated, there are still many reasons why you should take this test, and it can still have a significant impact on your future.

Here are a few benefits to taking the SAT that you should consider before opting out of taking the exam:

Staying competitive

In today’s competitive climate, it is no longer enough to simply have a good GPA or to participate in extracurricular activities in order to get into the colleges on your list. Every high school student who wants to get into a selective university is going to have good grades, strong letters of recommendation, and a laundry list of extracurricular and volunteer activities.

If you want to be a competitive applicant and stand out among the crowd of other applicants, you will need to earn an impressive SAT score, even if your school is test-optional.

Test-optional is not the same thing as test-blind, meaning that if you send your scores to an institution that is test-optional, they will still be considered as a part of your application. This can work to your advantage if you have a good enough score.

While most anyone can show up for a club meeting or spend a couple of hours a month volunteering at a senior center, it takes a truly dedicated student to score within a top percentile on the SAT. If you have a great SAT score, it shows admissions officers that you have mastered the material you learned in high school, you have the study habits that you need to succeed in college, and you know how to work hard and put your mind toward accomplishing your goals.

With colleges receiving thousands of admirable applicants each year, anything that you can do to make yourself stand out will help your chances of admission. Choosing to take the SAT and earning a respectable score will give you a significant leg up over those applicants who choose not to take the SAT at all.

Meeting admissions requirements

Sure, there are quite a few schools that are no longer requiring that applicants take the SAT. However, there are also many schools that are not taking this route, particularly schools that are considered prestigious and competitive.

If you want to get into Ivy League schools or schools that are highly selective, you are going to need to send in your SAT scores in order to have a chance at admission. While some of these schools have waived SAT requirements through 2022 due to COVID-19, they have not announced plans to stay test-optional beyond 2022.

Before you decide not to take the SAT, make sure you visit the website for each of the schools on your list to see whether or not they are going to require your class to take the SAT.

Scholarship money

Although some schools no longer require students to take the SAT for admission, some still use SAT scores to determine how much they will award students in automatic scholarships.

At some colleges, earning a high SAT score coupled with maintaining a solid GPA can translate into thousands of dollars in automatic scholarships.

In addition to financial aid offered by colleges and universities, many outside scholarship programs also use SAT scores to determine who is accepted into their program or who they will offer their scholarship money.

If you don’t take the SAT, it can decrease (or even eliminate) your chances of receiving scholarship money from different institutions and scholarship programs.

Balancing out your applications

If you choose not to take the SAT and apply to test-optional schools, it will not directly hurt your chances of admission. However, in addition to making your application less competitive, it will also shift focus to other areas of your application like your GPA, application essay, extracurricular and volunteer activities, and letters of recommendation.

If your GPA is not as high as you would like for it to be, or you were not very involved in after school clubs, you might want a strong SAT score to draw attention from these weaker areas. 

If your SAT score is in the 99th percentile, for example, it won’t matter as much if you only participated in diversity club instead of taking on a leadership position. If you have a 3.6 GPA and a 1550 on the SAT, it will be far more impressive than having a 3.6 GPA and no scores to submit to show your academic merit.

As you can see, while the SAT is not always required, the benefits of taking this test far outweigh any disadvantages.

Preparing for the SAT with Prep Expert

I highly recommend that you take the SAT whether or not it’s a requirement for your state or prospective colleges, and that you try to earn the highest score possible.

Prep Expert can help you reach your SAT goals.

Prep Expert offers all of the tips, tricks, and  resources you need to shift the SAT from a headache and a hassle into a tool that will help increase your chances of getting into your dream school and unlock opportunities to improve your future.

Our SAT prep courses are taught by highly effective instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT. In addition to teaching you all of the content that is on the SAT, when you sign up for one of our courses, you will learn over 100 SAT strategies that will help you master the SAT and walk away with a score that will impress admissions officers.

Prep Expert also offers private online SAT tutoring that will give you a flexible and reliable way to study for the SAT and work on improving your specific weaknesses before test day. 

Sign up for private tutoring, enroll in an SAT prep course, or learn more about Prep Expert and how we can ensure that you are ready to take the SAT and earn a desirable score when you visit our website.